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A Guide to Cream

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A Guide to Cream
Elizabeth LaBau

Standing in front of the dairy case can be a daunting experience—who knew there were so many different types of cream? Understanding their differences is key to selecting the right cream for your needs. Cream is obtained by skimming the top layer of butterfat from milk, and it is categorized by its fat content below.

  • Half and half: half milk and half cream mixed together, with a fat content between 10-15%. It adds a richness milk does not, but is not thick enough to replace cream in recipes that call for cream. It will not whip like cream, either.

  • Light cream: fat content between 18-30%, also known as coffee cream. Light cream will not whip.

  • Whipping cream: made specifically for whipping, contains 30-36% milk fat. Often contains stabilizers and emulsifiers to ensure it keeps and holds its form when being whipped.

  • Heavy cream: also called heavy whipping cream, has a fat content between 36-40%.

  • Manufacturing cream: has a fat content over 40%, and is generally not available in retail stores. It is primarily used in professional food service.

  • Aerosol cream: comes in aerosol cans and contains cream, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and nitrous oxide, the propellant used to squirt it out of the cans. Although it has its uses in dessert preparation, it is not used in candy making.

  • “Whipped topping” or “dessert topping”: usually does not contain cream at all, but instead is a mixture of hydrogenated vegetable oils.

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